100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 20, Roasted Cauliflower at Roost

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Photo by Mai Pham
This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

It's difficult to choose a single dish at Roost that I've enjoyed more than any other. Over the course of several visits to chef Kevin Naderi's eccentric Montrose bistro, I've indulged in everything from country-fried quail in Steen's cane syrup and meaty gravy to Persian-inspired pickled vegetables served in a homey Ball jar.

But it's Naderi's roasted cauliflower which quickly became the restaurant's signature dish -- a tribute to both his skill and to Houston's changing attitude towards embracing vegetables as a category of food to be appreciated for its own intrinsic merits.

That said, it's pretty easy to appreciate a vegetable when it's been both roasted and fried. That's the dual treatment that Roost's cauliflower gets, and one of the reasons it's become the restaurant's signature dish. The other reasons: a satiny miso broth that coats each buttery chunk of cauliflower with a rich, salty, earthy sheen; delicate flakes of bonito that dance across the top and provide a briny bite; and crunchy pine nuts and bright slivers of green onion that provide a final, buoyant boost to the whole dish.

And I'm not alone in being charmed by it. "It's been three days since I tried his Japanese-inspired roasted cauliflower, and that makes three days that I've been singing its praises," wrote our own Mai Pham when she interviewed Naderi in February. "I think I've told everyone I've come in contact with about this simple dish, the one he said he would not be taking off the menu because customers love it so much."

So while everything else on the menu at Roost has rotated with the seasons, the roasted cauliflower -- emblematic of the restaurant itself in its homey flavors and cross-cultural inspiration -- has stayed firmly in place. I think Naderi would have a minor riot on his hands otherwise.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac
No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's
No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets
No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito
No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery
No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar
No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch
No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito
No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F.
No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe
No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers
No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay
No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe
No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño
No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen
No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme
No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts
No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge
No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House
No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux
No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar
No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales
No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana
No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's
No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven
No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate
No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill
No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Friends Pizzeria
No. 72: Esparragos gratinados at Tintos
No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen
No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings
No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood
No. 68: Ceviche at Sirena Seafood
No. 67: Caldo de mariscos at Taqueria Arandas
No. 66: Banana pudding at Pizzitola's
No. 65: Fried catfish and gumbo at Cafe-A-La
No. 64: Soft-shell crabs at Banana Leaf
No. 63: Macaroni and cheese at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse
No. 62: Torta burger at El Gran Malo
No. 61: Black bean burger at Ziggy's
No. 60: Parillada at Pampa Grill
No. 59: Peanut butter and jalapeño jelly burger at Wicked Whisk
No. 58: Eggplant involtini at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 57: Lone Star dog at James Coney Island
No. 56: Sushi at Sushi Miyagi
No. 55: Palestinian chicken at Al Aseel
No. 54: Roast beef sandwich at Local Foods
No. 53: Mexico City plate at Molina's Cantina
No. 52: Tacos at Brothers Taco House
No. 51: Branzino at Lucio's BYOB
No. 50: Beef sweetbreads at Feast
No. 49: Golden Doomba Special at the Rice Box Truck
No. 48: Malted waffle at City Cafe
No. 47: Banh mi bo kho at Cafe TH
No. 46: Chicken fried steak at Triple A
No. 45: Larissa plate at Harry's
No. 44: Spaghetti carbonara at Coppa Ristorante Italiano
No. 43: Wings and grits at The Breakfast Klub
No. 42: Frito pie at C&D Burger Shoppe
No. 41: Pollo con mole at El Gallo de Jalisco
No. 40: Fried avocado taco at H-Town StrEATs
No. 39: Rigatoni in bolognese sauce at Paulie's
No. 38: Chorizo kolaches at Peña's Donut Heaven
No. 37: Sashimi at Dadami
No. 36: Half-pound burger at benjy's
No. 35: Fried chicken at Haven
No. 34: Whole-fried speckled trout at Liberty Kitchen
No. 33: Moules congolaise at Jeannine's Bistro
No. 32: Pancakes at Fountain View Cafe
No. 31: Pineapple with chile en polvo at Canino's
No. 30: Fried chicken at Barbecue Inn
No. 29: Dirty Burque at Green Seed Vegan
No. 28: Egusi at Finger Licking Bukateria
No. 27: Brisket and turkey at CorkScrew BBQ
No. 26: Menudo at La Mexicana
No. 25: Shrimp and grits at Shade
No. 24: Kinilaw at Reef
No. 23: Lamb at El Hidalguense
No. 22: Gumbo at Danton's
No. 21: Chicken-fried water buffalo at The Hay Merchant



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Roost

1972 Fairview St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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5 comments
erinhicks
erinhicks

This delicious recipe is featured in my upcoming cookbook, "Houston Small Plates & Sips" (October 2012).

JakeSpoon
JakeSpoon

Wasn't impressed with Roost or the fried cauliflower there.  The best fried cauliflower in Houston can be found at Cafe Lili on Westheimer, just west of Chimney Rock.

conebaby
conebaby topcommenter

Love this dish, and the fried quail. I also love that Indian chickpea dish they have on the menu ... and the bread service ... and the bottle of Finger Lakes Riesling they had on the menu last time I was there. Roost is a favorite.

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